Caitlin Rother is coming out with a new title to add to her ever-growing true crime curriculum vitae. The newest book to be squeezed onto the "R" shelf of our favorite genre is Body Parts [Amazon; B&N], published by Pinnacle this month. It concerns a serial murderer whose capture was not actually the result of a dogged police investigation -- the vicious lust-killer actually turned himself in and confessed to startled strangers at great length and with much apparent remorse.
The facts of the case are quite curious, and the author is putting her psychology education to use in explaining the strange dichotomy that is Wayne Adam Ford. She also obtained access to previously unreleased information once the trial court proceedings ended.
Meanwhile, Caitlin has more books coming out and in the works, as her website explains. I recently had a chance to ask her a few questions about the Ford case, and she was kind enough to reply. Here is our Q&A.
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Q. What do you make of the fact that this serial killer turned himself in? (Is this unusual? I'm not sure.)
This is what initially drew me to the case because I'd never heard of that happening. The defense made a big deal of this, and the prosecution tried to downplay it, saying Ford wasn't the only one to ever do this.
Nonetheless, I still think it's rare enough that it makes him quite an unusual killer, especially when he said he did it because he wanted to stop killing.
On top of that, he surrendered himself when he wasn't even a suspect, he spoke to detectives for several days without an attorney, he broke down in tears during those interviews and he asked the detectives to tell the victims' families that he was sorry. All of these factors made me feel Ford was worthy of a book.
Q. As you no doubt know, books about serial killers often sell quite well -- but at the same time, they're a lightning rod for the genre's critics. Did you have any qualms as you began this project?
Yes and no. I want people to read the books I write. And now that I'm doing this as a full-time career, they have to sell for me to continue writing them. So, I not only have to pick a case that will do well in the marketplace, but I have to choose one I can live with for the years I will spend writing, researching and promoting it.
I won't write a book that I wouldn't want to read and I don't like gore. I also don't believe in glorifying or sensationalizing violence, especially when it's mixed with sex. I have my own code of honor and integrity, and I do my best to maintain my journalistic objectivity. I strive to allow the dead to maintain their dignity, to be sensitive and sympathetic to the victims and their families, and also to be fair to the defendant's family, because they, too, will lose a loved one (to prison and/or execution).
I don't see even the most violent offenders in purely black and white terms, especially where mental illness is concerned, which means I give him/her a careful and thorough psychological exploration. My ultimate goal is to explain WHY these killers did what they did, not to rationalize or justify their actions, but so that we as a society can understand what made them this way.
Maybe I'm being too optimistic here, but how else can we try to stop it from happening? The bottom line is that if I succeed in carrying out all these goals, I can only hope that most critical and intelligent readers will appreciate the detailed research I've done and the care I've put into telling the story. So far, they have.
Q. Why were some of the court records sealed, and what did you have to do to get them?
This case started in Humboldt County, where it was getting so much publicity that the judge issued a gag order. Ultimately, the case was moved down to San Bernardino, where apparently it was common practice to withhold all investigative reports -- including those concerning the victims' criminal records and Ford's confessions -- from the public.
Other journalists covering the case had to go to court to free up some materials, but the confessions still remained under seal until after the trial. Even after the trial, I still had to get a court order to look at the victims' records, which I've never had to do for another book.
Also, many of the interviews with the Ford family, which contained many of the interesting stories about his past, were not available until after the trial. Most of them were not admitted into the trial, so they never made it into the public domain, and therefore were also exclusive for the purposes of my book.
Q. Did you learn anything about the case that surprised you?
I learned a lot about paraphelias, the bizarre series of sexual practices that Ford enjoyed, such as sticking needles into women's breasts, etc. I also found it fascinating to watch Ford go from crying to killing and back again, the type of black and white behavior that is symptomatic of his Borderline Personality Disorder. I'd never encountered that, either.
Q. Are you satisfied that justice was served? And do you think Ford will ever be executed?
I don't feel comfortable expressing my opinion about cases and outcomes because I feel people may read bias into my books, but I will say that even Ford and members of his family have said Ford is where he is supposed to be: on death row.
I will be surprised if he gets executed before he dies of natural causes -- or commits suicide. About 680 people are now on death row in California, and if only 14 condemned inmates have been executed since 1978, it's easy to do the math. Also, no one has been executed in California since 2006, when the court decided that the lethal injection protocol was too problematic, and it's unclear when that temporary moratorium will be lifted. The whole system is under review.
Q. Are there any particular authors or titles you turned to, to learn more?
No, I did all my own research for the book. Although I've read books in the past about serial killers and profiling, and watched interviews on TV, I didn't rely on any of them to write BODY PARTS.
Years ago when I was still a newspaper reporter, I interviewed a serial killer here in San Diego and covered the mentally ill in jails and prisons. My interest goes all the way back to college at UC Berkeley, where I was a psychology major and learned quite a bit about aberrant human beings.
Q. Are you working on another book? I'm going to have to start calling you prolific, dear!!
The paperback version of TWISTED TRIANGLE comes out in April: the crazy but factual account of a kidnapping, attempted murder, and a lesbian love affair between two married FBI agents and famous novelist Patricia Cornwell.
I recently co-authored a book with TV reporter Alysia Sofios, which will be released by Simon & Schuster in September. WHERE HOPE BEGINS tells the story of how Sofios risked her career to help several surviving female members of the Marcus Wesson family recover from a cult-like life of polygamy, incest, abuse and the murder of nine of their children.
And as we speak, I'm working on a book about the murder of Tom and Jackie Hawks, who were tied to an anchor of their yacht, the Well Deserved, and thrown overboard off Newport Beach, California. The Hawkses were murdered by a clan of outlaws led by Skylar and Jennifer Deleon, who, along with a third defendant, Crips member John F. Kennedy, have been convicted of murder for financial gain. Juries have recommended the death penalty for Skylar Deleon and Kennedy and they are scheduled for sentencing on March 27. The fate of two other defendants, who were involved in the conspiracy and testified against the others, should be resolved this summer. The working title is UNDESERVED.
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For more about Caitlin's new book, check out the review by the San Diego Weekly Reader, which calls the story "excellent."